The end of September is an odd transitional time of the year when some mornings it is cool enough for a light jacket, which we will regret wearing along about eleven, when the temperature rises precipitously. The angle of light is changing, the sun is going down earlier, there are some leaves falling, as well as some paint-damaging acorns, and we are about ready for a change. Summer is a grand season, but I am looking forward to sweater weather. It looks like it should feel cooler than it actually is.
I love the simplicity of summer cooking, but you know that my summertime philosophy is to send as much of the cooking outside to Mr. Friday and his grill as I possibly can, without looking too churlish. I need to figure out what dishes I can bring inside, without compromising said philosophy. And that is why I looked into what the cast-iron frying pan can do for me.
And instead of wandering freely (translation:lazily) around the internet, and relying on my favorite crutches of Food52 or Bon Appétit websites, I trolled some of my actual cookbooks for some ideas. One of my beloved cookbooks provides me with hours of entertainment: The Southerner’s Cookbook: Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories From the Editors of Garden & Gun. These are well-researched recipes, which are kitchen-tested, as well as being traditional, and reliable.
I want to enjoy corn for another few weeks, or as long as our farmers’ market sells it. Here is a great recipe from Garden & Gun for Cast-Iron Charred Corn:
8 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/4 cup finely diced bacon
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced Vidalia onion
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
To removed the corn kernels, cut off the ends of each ear to make flat surfaces. One at a time, stand the ears in a wide casserole dish and carefully cut down the sides with a sharp knife. Next, hold each cob over a bowl and scrape the back edge of the knife to remove the “milk”. Discard the milked ears and set liquid aside.
Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-high eat. Add the cut corn kernels to the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the bacon and continue to cook until the kernels are slightly charred and the bacon begins to crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the corn “milk”, the charred corn and bacon mixture, and the cream. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the chives and serve hot.
And now you will never need to read the recipe again. You can add this to your summer side dish rotation, but it can also ease you into fall.
Oh, look! It’s also available online: https://gardenandgun.com/recipe/cast-iron-charred-corn/
Another beautifully designed southern cooking book is Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots. Like Garden & Gun, Howard’s preparation is simple and the end result is satisfying. You will need to read this recipe just once before you commit it to your memory and your dinner repertoire.
Corn and Snap Bean Succotash with Basil and Jalapeño
Makes 5 cups
1 cup leeks, sliced into 1/3-inch rounds
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 cups corn, cut from 6 – 7 ears
2 cups snap beans (we call them string beans), cut into 1/3-inch pieces
1 tablespoon minced jalapeño, seeds removed, if you like
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water or corn stock
1/3 cup whole basil leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter
In a 10- or 12-inch skillet or sauté pan, sweat the leeks and ginger in the vegetable oil for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, corn, beans, jalapeño, salt and water. Bring it up to a simmer and cook until all but 1/4 cup of the water has evaporated. I know that is impossible to measure, so just eyeball it. Stir in the basil leaves, lemon juice, and the butter. Serve warm.
And here is a link to the recipe, which is not as lovely as the cookbook version: https://books.google.com/books?id=jRTyCwAAQBAJ&pg=PT382&lpg=PT382&dq=Vivian+Howard+corn+and+snap+bean+succotash&source=bl&ots=XA8rrzHHPR&sig=ACfU3U1TYhuieMzHB8tT9HqbiCZrFe12bA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiozZup9u7kAhUCA6wKHWvUDlwQ6AEwB3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=Vivian%20Howard%20corn%20and%20snap%20bean%20succotash&f=false
We must give the Food52 city slickers their due: https://food52.com/recipes/28514-granddaddy-s-skillet-fried-corn-with-bacon
And while we wait for the weather to catch up with the calendar let’s move out to the back porch for a glass of wine. It’s almost dinnertime. I can hear geese some afternoons, and I watch the squirrel hunting parties rustling around while they are checking on this year’s pecan harvest. Luke the wonder dog is quite grateful for the extra exercise.
“On September twentieth every year, I got to choose my menu – meatloaf, corn niblets, and rice were followed by candles on chocolate cake with vanilla icing and a scoop of Brock-Hall ice cream.”